A Goya Portrait for the Huntington

Francisco José de Goya y Luciente, Portrait of José Antonio Caballero, Second Marqués de Caballero, Secretary of Grace and Justice, 1807. Gift of the Ahmanson Foundation. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. 
The Ahmanson Foundation has funded the purchase of a Goya portrait for the Huntington. Long on loan to the University of Miami's Lowe Art Museum, the Portrait of José Antonio Caballero was auctioned at Sotheby's in Jan. 2022 for for $2,198,000, more than tripling the high estimate. The Ahmanson website reports that it paid $5.8 million for the picture.

The escalating prices track an upgrade in the painting's scholarly reputation. According to Sotheby's, a near-identical picture in Budapest was long considered Goya's original. Recent scholarship recognizes the Huntington painting as largely or entirely autograph, and at least one expert (William B. Jordan) declared it the prime version. 

The sitter, José Antonio Caballero, was an aristocrat known for his advocacy of smallpox vaccination. However, the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts website notes that "the cynical and haughty expression of the model also reflects what Goya thought of the Marquis Caballero, a power hungry and morally unscrupulous man whom he rather disliked." 
Francisco José de Goya y Luciente, Marquesa de Caballero, 1807. Neue Pinakothek, Munich
Goya painted the sitter's wife the same year, and that picture too exists in several copies. The two likenesses are the same size—about 41 by 33 inches—and were intended to face each other. 
Francisco José de Goya y Luciente, Vicente Maria de Vera de Aragon, Duque de la Roca, about 1795. San Diego Museum of Art
The colors of the marquis' picture rival the scintillating portrait of a duke in the San Diego Museum of Art, which also has a note of caricature. The finery makes a mockery of the frail subject.

Portrait of José Antonio Caballero was once owned by Cuban sugar and railroad tycoon Oscar Cintas, who served as ambassador to the U.S. in the 1930s. Cintas established a collection of Cuban art, with a few European Old Masters. The Spanish paintings, including José Antonio Caballero, were put on loan to Miami's Lowe Art Museum in 1989. They remained there until shortly before the 2022 auction.

The Ahmanson Foundation began supporting Huntington acquisitions in 2021, following a falling out with LACMA. (In the what-might-have-been department, LACMA doesn't have a Goya painting.) This is the third big Ahmanson buy for the Huntington, following a Thomas Cole in 2021 and a Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun in 2022. 

Portrait of José Antonio Caballero becomes the only Spanish painting in a collection mainly known for British and American art. It is to go on view Nov. 29, 2023, followed days later by the debut of the Huntington's first major Chinese painting, by Qiu Ling, on Dec. 9. 


Anonymous said…
"Portrait of José Antonio Caballero becomes the only Spanish painting in a collection mainly known for British and American art."

The Ahmanson Foundation has gone rogue --- buying Spanish paintings for a British/American collection.

... In 1992, the Getty paid $7.4 million at auction for Goya's Bullfight.

... In 2023, two matched portraits sold at auction for a combined $16.4 million.

$5.8 million seems like a bargain. Or, is it? Is there something wrong with this painting?
Anonymous said…
> LACMA doesn't have a Goya painting.

That artist would have made a bit more sense in a so-called encyclopedic museum than one that focuses on British/American art.

However, it's nice that LACMA, as the art critic of the LA Times put it awhile ago, is ending up as an exhibitor of contemporary art (but, as he described it, a mediocre one at that), not relics from the distant past. Although I'm sure the museum's director, when he was dealing with the Ahmanson Foundation, at least was honest, sensible, transparent and honorable towards them as he has been towards the public about the Peter Zumthor building.
Anonymous said…
It’s probably a good thing that LACMA doesn’t have a Goya because, if it did, it would be sitting in storage for the unforeseeable future and rarely, if ever, shipped over to the ever shrinking museum for a mixed and matched blink-and-you-missed-it “art is everything everywhere all at once, get it?!” banal exhibition.
Anonymous said…
Isn't it clear what is wrong with the painting?

Just look at the two matched portraits you cited.

Goya is at his best with a muddy palette.

Even when forced to conform, he seeks more balance. See his portrait of Charles and Family.

As a general rule, gaudy collectors gravitate toward gaudy paintings. This is a Goya befitting the Ahmanson Foundation.
Anonymous said…
A moment for exceptional old Master works? And Spanish artists? Maybe.

Sotheby’s are offering a Diego Velázquez full-length portrait of Isabel de Borbón, queen of Spain and the first wife of Philip IV, for $35mn in New York on February 1 2024. The work is GUARANTEED by Sotheby's!!

Makes Mai's full-length look like a steal for the Getty. Not to mention all the wonderful full-lengths at the Huntington.